United States District Court, N.D. New York
Firm DOUGLAS J. NASH, ESQ., JOHN D. COOK, ESQ., JASON C. HALPIN, ESQ., KATRHYN DALEY CORNISH, ESQ., MARK E. GALVEZ, ESQ., Hiscock, Barclay Law Syracuse Office, Syracuse, NY, For the Plaintiff
CHARLES R. WOLFE, ESQ, TARA L. MARCUS, ESQ, NICHOLAS M. NYEMAH, ESQ., Blank, Rome Law Firm, Washington, DC,
MITCHELL J. KATZ, ESQ., TERESA M. BENNETT, ESQ., Menter, Rudin Law Firm, Syracuse, NY,
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff PPC Broadband, Inc., doing business as PPC, commenced this action against defendant Times Fiber Communications, Inc. for alleged infringement of one of PPC's coaxial cable connector patents, U.S. Patent No. 8, 337, 229 ("229 patent"). ( See generally Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Following the parties' request for the construction of several disputed terms in the patent in suit, the court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles for a Markman  hearing. (Dkt. Nos. 27, 37, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 45, 48.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) issued January 30, 2015, Judge Peebles recommended constructions for eight of the submitted terms, and, with respect to one remaining term, recommended that no construction was necessary. (Dkt. No. 63.) Pending are Times Fiber's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 66.) Largely for the reasons articulated by Judge Peebles, and for the reasons that follow, the recommended constructions are adopted in their entirety.
II. Standard of Review
Before entering final judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific element of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In those cases where no party has filed an objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits the same papers and arguments already considered by the magistrate judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.
Although there were originally nine disputed terms at issue, six of which were discussed in the R&R after the parties' agreement on the construction of three previously disputed terms, Times Fiber's objections relate only to the proposed construction of three of the terms: "a connector body attached to a post"; "radial end face surface extending from the inner surface/radial end face surface extending from the inner surface portion"; and "axial direction." (Dkt. No. 66 at 8-18.) In response to Corning's objections, PPC argues that Judge Peebles' recommendations were appropriate and should be adopted by this court. (Dkt. No. 70 at 6-23.) The court will address each of the terms, and the respective recommended constructions to which Times Fiber has objected, below.
A. A Connector Body Attached to a Post
Judge Peebles recommended that the term "a connector body attached to a post" be construed as "a post and connector body, which are separate components, of the connector ( i.e. they are not a single integral component), that are interlocked with one another to prevent axial movement of one relative to the other." (Dkt. No. 63 at 14-20, 37.) Times Fiber's proposed construction would have defined this term as "a body portion of the connector that is either integrally or separately attached to a post of the connector, " and thus would allow for the connector body and the post to be either a single unitary component or two separate components that become attached. (Dkt. No. 37 at 18-19.) Therefore, Times Fiber specifically objects to the recommended construction, primarily arguing that the ordinary meaning of the phrase "a connector body attached to a post" encompasses both an integral and a separate attachment, and that the recommended construction excludes one of the embodiments of the claim that is contained in the patent specification. (Dkt. No. 66 at 8-10.) The court has thus reviewed this recommendation de novo.
When faced with "an actual dispute regarding the proper scope" of a patent claim, the court must construe the allegedly infringed claim to determine its meaning and scope. O2 Micro Int'l Ltd. v. Beyond Innovation Tech. Co., Ltd., 521 F.3d 1351, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2008). In so doing, the court is cognizant that unless the patentee "acts as his own lexicographer" or "disavows the full scope of a claim term either in the specification or during prosecution, " the words of a claim are "given their plain and ordinary meaning [as understood by] one of skill in the art." See Thorner v. Sony Computer Entm't Am. LLC, 669 F.3d 1362, 1365-67 (Fed. Cir. 2012). When "the meaning of a claim term as understood by persons of skill in the art is not readily apparent, " the court must construe the disputed claim terms in order to resolve such disputes. O2 Micro, 521 F.3d at 1360.
Generally, a court's construction should not construe a term in a way that would exclude an embodiment disclosed in the patent specification. See Oatey Co. v. IPS Corp., 514 F.3d 1271, 1276-77 (Fed. Cir. 2008). However, when a particular embodiment is encompassed not by the patent claims in which the disputed term appears, but instead is encompassed by other patent claims that are not at issue, a court's construction of the disputed term may exclude an embodiment that is disclosed in the patent specification. See Helmsderfer v. Bobrick Washroom Equip., Inc., 527 F.3d 1379, 1383 (Fed. Cir. ...